Why infants and children should never be left unattended with dogs.

Why infants and children should never be left unattended with dogs.

Why infants and children should never be left unattended with dogs.

This youngster is approaching in a menacing manner by approaching head-on, glaring, and reaching over the dog.
The toddler seems less menacing by avoiding eye contact and crouching close to the dog. Instead of patting the dog, the youngster is caressing it on the back with long, soft strokes.
Tynes, M. C.

Staying on Track and Avoiding Pitfalls

Infants and children should never be left alone with dogs at home. Always have a competent adult there to supervise their interactions. The age at which a kid may be alone with the dog varies depending on the child’s development and the dog’s disposition.

Children under the age of five should generally not be left alone with dogs, and children older than that may need varying levels of supervision.
Teach youngsters to respect the needs of the dog. Children should be taught the following as soon as they are old enough to accept direction:
Dogs should not be stared at.
Do not attempt to hug dogs; although the dog may accept adult affection, a hug from a youngster may be undesired and menacing. It’s important to remember that hugging is not a natural habit for dogs. Although many individuals grow to appreciate the contact, others do not, particularly with strangers and youngsters.

Approaching a dog that is eating or resting is not a good idea.
A dog, like humans, is a living, breathing creature that deserves to be treated with compassion, tenderness, and respect.

Use child-friendly educational materials like The Blue Dog, a parent handbook and CD available from the American Veterinary Medical Association in the United States (purchase online at www.avma.org/KB/K12/Pages/AVMA-Products-The-Blue-Dog.aspx).
When close, ongoing monitoring is not feasible, it is the parents’ obligation to keep dog and kid apart until children are old enough to be taught correct dog behavior and consistently behave in a polite way. Obviously, this differs from one household to the next and from one canine to the next. In general, very young children under the age of five are untrustworthy when it comes to interacting with household pets.

When a family seeks treatment from a veterinary behaviorist, the history often reveals multiple early symptoms of canine discomfort in encounters between the kid and the dog (head twisting, avoidance behavior, growling).

These indicators should never be disregarded, but rather utilized as a foundation for understanding the child-dog interaction; they typically indicate that a competent specialist’s involvement is required.


If the dog is accompanied by an adult, it is usually a good idea to seek permission before approaching the dog. If permission is granted, take the following precautions to prevent startling the dog and risking a violent reaction:
Don’t stare; instead, stand to the side of the dog, talk in a soft, kind tone, and let the dog approach first. Pet the dog only after it has sniffed and demonstrated interest in engaging.
If the dog walks away from you, presume she doesn’t want to play; stop approaching her and ignore her.

Don’t put your hand over the dog’s head right away. This technique might be unsettling to some dogs.
Stroke the dog’s back, ears, or under her chin if she shows interest and continues to want to engage. Patting is not recommended since many dogs do not appear to love it. Instead, use gentle, lengthy strokes.

If a dog growls at you, come to a halt and carefully back away. Never turn away from a dog that is charging at you. Hold your hands tucked under your arms or about your ears. If you fall, curl up in a ball and lay extremely motionless with your arms curled about your head and neck.

Remember that young children, particularly those under the age of five, should never be left alone with dogs until they are at least 10 years old.

Accidents may happen in the blink of an eye, no matter how kind and well-behaved the dog is! Worse, it’s hard to determine precisely what occurred if a growl, snap, or bite happens without an adult there.

Although supervision may not prevent all aggressive encounters, if something happens and an adult witnesses the incident, it can provide valuable information to the veterinary behaviorist, such as whether the child injured or scared the dog, and whether the dog is particularly intolerant of children approaching.

This information may assist the veterinary behaviorist in better analyzing the problem and developing the appropriate management and treatment strategy while keeping the prognosis reasonable. Furthermore, if parents are always monitoring their children and dogs, they may actively engage in teaching them what to do and what not to do.

Never Punish your dog

Punishment and verbal reprimand for the dog’s avoidance and warning actions (such as looking away, licking lips, or snarling) will not fix the issue. These items do nothing to alleviate the dog’s worry, and in fact, may induce the dog to identify the presence of the youngster with negative consequences—in other words, they may aggravate the situation.
Consider what would happen if you were frightened of elevators and someone pushed you into one, then shouted at you as you attempted to get out.

Imagine if you trembled and sweated and got a punch in the nose in return. Do you believe this would make you feel more comfortable traveling in elevators? In the worst-case scenario, dogs that are penalized for displaying avoidance and warning signals of aggressiveness may cease warning and go straight to biting the following time.

Safe haven.

While forcing a dog to engage with a youngster is a horrible idea, enabling the dog to avoid the situation by providing her with an escape route is a fantastic option. To escape the excitement and stress that comes with a busy household, your dog should always have a safe haven.

A dog’s safe haven might be anyplace in the house where the dog can go to escape circumstances that cause anxiety or dread. A crate in an out-of-the-way location, a dog bed in a quiet bedroom or office—anywhere the dog can go to be alone—can serve as a sanctuary.

What matters is that the dog has access to her safe sanctuary at all times and that she is taught that she may go there anytime she wishes to escape dangerous or unpleasant circumstances.

All family members must also be taught to respect the dog’s right to be separated from the family by not bothering her in any way while she is in her safe haven. As a result, the children must be trained to leave the dog alone in her safe haven.

Planning a safe haven for the dog before the arrival of a new baby (or any child) is an important, necessary, and welcome step for the dog. Separate the dog from you for a few minutes at a time to begin training while you are nearby but otherwise busy.

This should be enjoyable for your dog and not stressful for her. During these sessions, give the dog a special treat and use a cue like “quiet time” to help the dog understand what is expected.
Increase the amount of time the dog is left alone gradually.

When she is calm, always reward her with goodies, and never react to whining or barking by letting her out of the crate or from behind a baby gate. If your dog appears to be distressed about being separated from you, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible so that the issue can be resolved before the child arrives.

If the dog will not be confined, she may be trained to go to a certain location and stay there, but she must not be bothered and must be kept out of the way of youngsters. Provide long-lasting chew toys or food puzzle toys (such as Kongs, Kibble Nibbles, and Tuga-Jugs) in her safe haven to teach the dog to utilize and love them.

Give the dog these toys when there are no youngsters around to prevent resource guarding issues. They may also be used as a reward for sleeping peacefully in the safe haven.

Prepare ahead of time.

Here are some things to consider if you’re buying a dog and have children or intend to have them:
Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, and Toy Poodles, for example, are tiny and fragile breeds that are readily picked up and therefore easily damaged by harsh handling, which might occur accidentally from little children with inadequate motor skills.

Some sighthounds, such as Afghan Hounds and Deerhounds, and herding breeds, such as Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, have a tendency to chase moving objects, and these breed tendencies may be directed toward children, who move quickly in play, necessitating additional supervision and training. (For additional information on selecting a dog, In addition, your veterinarian may provide you with valuable information to assist you in selecting the ideal pet for you and your family.

If at all feasible, get your puppy from a breeder that has children or has arranged for regular, gentle kid handling. You might also adopt a dog that has been in a foster home, where the family can inform you whether the dog has ever been around children.
During the first three to twelve months of her life, make every effort to introduce your puppy to children of various ages and sizes. When the dog and the children first meet, have the youngsters provide wonderful snacks to the puppy.

Remember to keep an eye on the youngsters to make sure they don’t play too rough and startle or damage the dog.
Teach your dog to go to a secure, quiet location where she will be alone.
Make sure your children understand that while the dog is in her safe haven, they must leave her alone.
Teach your dog basic etiquette and have effective verbal control of her actions, such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” and “go to your bed,” so that she does not learn to lick or snap at youngsters for food.
Teach your children proper dog handling techniques and when to leave her alone.

Preparing Your Dog for the Arrival of a Newcomer

Planning ahead for how your routine will change and putting some of those adjustments in place before the birth of a new baby may considerably reduce stress for both the dog and the family, allowing everyone time to acclimate to the new schedule and surroundings.

What if Mom is the one who walks the dog throughout the day, but she fears she won’t be able to do so or that the walks would be shorter after the baby arrives? Before the baby arrives, another adult may begin walking the dog on her normal schedule, gradually reducing the amount of time allocated for walks.

When a baby is introduced to the family, things may become chaotic, and it may be essential to separate the dog and the kid, especially when the youngster learns to crawl and toddle. Begin by purchasing any separation equipment you may need, such as baby gates or a dog box.

Then devote some time to teaching your dog how to relax in her safe haven. (For further information, see the “Safe Refuge” section earlier in this chapter.) Remember to take things carefully at first.

Strollers, walkers, swings, playpens, play mats, and Pack ‘n Plays are examples of baby equipment that may seem frightening to a dog. Try to introduce some of this equipment to the dog before the baby comes so that he gets used to it.

Remember that when a dog is around, activity centers and swings are not suitable locations to leave a baby alone. When a baby is in one of these, the dog should be behind a baby gate or in her crate, unless a responsible adult is there and monitoring. If you leave the room, even for a short while, a crib or playpen may be a safer location to put the infant.


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